A coast guard union spokesman has appealed to local people to contact their MLAs and MPs in a bid to save Bangor coastguard.
Ian Graham, branch secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, has also asked residents to register their concern on the consultation document that proposes to cut the number of 24 hour UK coastguard stations from 19 to just two — “Your life may depend on it.”
Mr Graham told the Community Telegraph: “The reaction of those at Bangor coastguard station to the consultation document was one of shock and disbelief.
“We are being told that this is modernisation but all it is, is a cost cutting exercise. To sum up, the consultation proposes reducing 19 24 hour coastguard stations around the UK to just two — one in the south of England and one in Aberdeen. They also propose to create a further five daytime only sub stations, one in Falmouth, Swansea, Humber, and then one in either Stornaway or Shetland, and one in either Belfast or Liverpool.
“We are upset that we have been put in direct competition with Liverpool. All Belfast operations are based here in Bangor coastguard station, but it’s not just the coasts we protect, it is also the inland waterways which include Lough Neagh and Lough Erne, and not forgetting mountain rescue for the Sperrins and the Mournes. We are also the point of contact for all helicopter taskings in Northern Ireland, and that includes the police and ambulance service.
“What the consultation further proposes is that either ourselves or Liverpool do both regions — with 50 per cent less staff than we currently have employed now.
“The way those proposing this say they can make these changes is by a new piece of technology — however, this is the same type of technology that the UK Fire and Rescue Service have just thrown out because they do not trust it — it seems now they have passed it on to the coastguard.”
Mr Graham said: “We appeal to everyone to respond to this consultation document, online if they can. For the service to spend 30 years building networks, partnerships and community alliances throughout Northern Ireland — we feel all this will be lost if the proposals go ahead. We firmly believe there are inherent dangers within this consultation document.
“The Department of Transport currently spend 0.3 per cent of their budget on our service, what the consultations propose is to reduce this figure to 0.26 per cent. So a 50 per cent reduction of the level of service for 0.04 per cent of the budget? It doesn’t make sense.”
To view the consultation document and respond visit the Maritime and Coast Guard agency website www.mcga.gov.uk. The consultation runs until Thursday March 24.
To keep updated on the campaign you can join the facebook cause site ‘Save NI Coastguard’ — over 8,000 people have already signed up.